Making the time to write
They say the only way to be a writer is to keep writing.
So that's what author Michelle Vandepol does every day.
The mother of three busy boys wakes up well before dawn to put in that precious time at the keyboard. Some days she works on fresh material as it comes to her. Other times she's fleshing out story ideas that came to her on her commute to her day job coordinating the Hope Centre for UFV.
And because she puts in the hours, sometimes she's sending off a manuscript to an e-publishing company.
"Writing around the rest of life is a decidedly unglamorous thing," she said. "I did a lot of going to bed at 9 p.m. mid-week so I could get in seven hours of sleep to fit writing in at 4 a.m. before my side job (recruiting for Japanese students) from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. and then getting everyone out the door to work and school."
Her hard work and persistence has paid off. Vandepol has recently released her second fiction offering, a collection of short stories titled Stories Your Mother Never Told You.
Like her first book, Mother Mexico, Vandepol has chosen to offer it online to get it directly into the hands of her readers.
She remains without an agent, by choice, happy to create fiction on the side while continuing to work on numerous other literary projects.
"Looking for an agent is time consuming," she said. "If one found me I'd be interested in sitting down to talk, but I'd rather spend my time for now just writing and then getting that writing to my readers in the most efficient way possible, which is e-publishing."
Stories Your Mother Never Told You is available on Smashwords.com for about the cost of a cup of coffee. The process is quick, and the platform allows users to read on a mobile device, computer, or even to print off a pdf version.
She was one of the authors featured at the Harrison Festival of the Arts Literary Night, which was organized by UFV and focused on works by that university's faculty.
That night, she read the first of the short stories included her collection, The Lesson. The story is a light-hearted look at the differences in parenting, written with Vandepol's sense of humour.
It was a chance to interact with her readers, something authors don't often get to experience, she said.
She has another reading event coming up, and is keeping busy as an editor for a magazine. She's also working on a writing coach book with her colleague, young adult author Allison Kilgannon.
While writing is a great passion, she couldn't devote herself entirely to it. Her work, and time spent volunteering, is just too important to push to the side, she said.
“I can't imagine just writing,” she said. “Inspiration is drawn from every aspect of my day, from my commute to my family to my volunteering and my work.”
She admits she does her best writing on her commute.
The UFV Hope Centre recently offered a writers weekend retreat, where Vandepol had the chance to connect with other authors at various stages in their careers. One of those writers completed their work at the retreat, and it was published shortly afterward.
“It is always enjoyable to take the mystique away from writing and make it accessible for those who dream about doing it,” she said. The next writers retreat is in late November, she added.
She has some advice for writers who are struggling to finish a project, get published, or those who are struggling to find the time to write at all.
“I would say to writers out there, just get to paper or keyboard whatever you have time for and collect it. It's like a savings account you can draw on later.”
She also treats her writing just like any other job, rather than a romanticized vision.
“I set up deadlines for myself. If we can reach them for work or school, we can reach them for artistic pursuits as well,” she said.
Michelle Vandepol's work can be found at smashwords.com.